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The Best Brightening Serums

During wintery months as the cold sets in, the weather can already be a damper to your mood. Now, on top of it, your skin has lost its radiant glow. Not to worry, brightening serums to the rescue. Let's take a deep dive into the causes for dull skin and narrow down the list of brightening serums suitable for you.  

What are the known causes of dull skin?

causes of dull skin_two faces lying together with their eyes closed

Dull skin can be characterised by lacklustre skin and uneven skin tone. However, what causes dull skin?

The main causes of dull skin are: 

Dehydration and Lack of Moisture

With the use of heating and lack of water intake, you could be lacking moisture internally. This is reflected on your skin externally, where the skin appears duller and lacks plumpness. As you read this, take a moment and have a sip of water to rehydrate.

The same applies to moisture externally; remember to seal in any hydration with a moisturiser suitable for your skin type. When the weather changes, it is advised to reach out to more occlusive moisturisers to better seal in the moisture, especially recommended for those with dry skin. 


As we age, skin naturally loses its function to produce collagen and elastin – the secret to plump and firm. Skin's ability to naturally shed dead skin cells also slows. With the dead skin cells not shedding as fast as they once did, it can emphasise the appearance of sallow and dull skin. When combined with other factors, like extended sun exposure, it leads to the onset of lacklustre skin.


Environmental factors play a significant role in dull and uneven skin tone, for instance, pollution and sun exposure due to the free radical damage causing the loss of collagen and stimulating pigment production. 

Unhealthy lifestyle

Have you been stressed lately or lacking sleep, leading to unhealthy eating habits, or skipping your skincare regimen? Not only does it affect your mental state, but it also shows on your skin through the appearance of dull skin.  

Smoking is also a factor inducing the appearance of dull skin due to the lack of supply of oxygen through blood being replaced with carbon monoxide. Also, carcinogens in tobacco alter the DNA and reduce cell turnover, which exacerbates the appearance of dull skin.

What ingredients help with brightening skin?


Now we have covered the causes for dull skin, how can we achieve the radiant glow through skincare? Top skin brightening ingredients to keep an eye out for in your skincare:

Some products are for nighttime? Why?


For certain brightening skincare products, there are specific instructions that you must follow - one of them being that the product should be used at night. Is there an actual reason why these products should be used at night?

The science behind this is that some skin brightening ingredients, such as Vitamin C, can cause photosensitivity. Photosensitivity is when skin can become more susceptible to redness and inflammation upon sun exposure. Hence, it is best practice to apply sunscreen in your morning routine to protect against UV damage and restrict the use of the brightening product at night.

Remember to finish your morning routine with SPF to protect skin against free radical damage. Even after makeup and during the day, with continued exposure to the sun, make sure to reapply your sunscreen. There is no excuse not to reapply sunscreen. With sunscreen coming in different forms: spray, powder, stick etc., reapplication could not get any easier.

Vitamin C also works better when used on dry skin. Although the general rule is to apply your skincare before your skin dries out and is damp to ensure maximum absorption, this is one of those exceptions. Ideally, for active ingredients, you should apply the skincare products on dry skin to ensure the solution is potent and not diluted. 

Librarian Recommendations:

With all this information at hand, you're probably wondering where to start? Don't fret; our Librarians have got you. Choose between the following best Korean Beauty brightening serums handpicked to combat dull skin and reveal radiant skin.

Please note at Skin Library; we do not stock any skin lightening/bleaching products as we do not agree with these products and want to protect skin health. Skin Lightening and bleaching products that contain hydroquinone, corticosteroids, or mercury are not stocked at Skin Library. They are banned in the UK without a prescription by a doctor due to the side effects if misused.


Beauty of Joseon Glow Serum: Propolis + Niacinamide (£14.00)

BEAUTY OF JOSEON Glow Serum: Propolis + Niacinamide

BEAUTY OF JOSEON's Glow Serum: Propolis + Niacinamide is in the line-up of Beauty of Joseon affordable yet effective facial serums. It is a lightweight serum that soothes and brightens skin to create a glowy finish without leaving a tacky sensation. Inspired by the beauty secrets of Joseon women in the Joseon Dynasty, it contains an ingredient that was also used in the Joseon Dynasty: Propolis. It also has Niacinamide to brighten skin complexion to provide a radiant glow.

Full Ingredient List: Propolis Extract, Dipropylene Glycol, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Water, Niacinamide, 1,2-Hexanediol, Melia Azadirachta Flower Extract, Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Ocimum Sanctum Leaf Extract, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Extract, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Corallina Officinalis Extract, Lotus Corniculatus Seed Extract, Calophyllum Inophyllum Seed Oil, Betaine Salicylate, Sodium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Tromethamine, Polyglyceryl-10 Laurate, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Dextrin, Pentylene Glycol, Octanediol, Tocopherol, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer.

Glowing Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  

I've been using this daily for a while (close to a year) and love how my skin has turned out by adding this to my skincare routine. It definitely has helped in reducing how much acne has appeared on my face as well as helps make it feel softer. – Nicole A. (From Beauty of Joseon's website)



ACWELL Licorice pH Balancing Advance Serum (£21.00)

ACWELL Licorice pH Balancing Advance Serum

ACWELL's Licorice pH Balancing Advance Serum is a liquorice-enriched facial serum suitable for all skin types. This antioxidant-rich serum contains 66% liquorice water to hydrate, brighten and promote firmer-looking skin. This lightweight serum has a water-like texture that sinks into the skin to deliver the benefits of the serum deep into the skin.

Full Ingredient List: Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Water, Methylpropanediol, Glycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Butylene Glycol, Polyglycerin-3, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Niacinamide, Propylheptyl Caprylate, Water, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Citrate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Citric Acid, Carbomer, Glyceryl Polymethacrylate, Disodium EDTA, Adenosine, Tromethamine, Polyquaternium-51, Sodium Hyaluronate, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Beta-Glucan, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Cynara Scolymus (Artichoke) Leaf Extract, Pteris Multifida Extract, Dextrin, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Extract, Dipropylene Glycol, Glycyrrhiza Uralensis (Licorice) Root Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Solanum Melongena (Eggplant) Fruit Extract, Glutathione, Pinus Pinaster Bark Extract.
Glowing Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This serum is a great addition to the ACWELL licorice root toner! - Sarah


Beplain Multi Vitamin Brightening Ampoule


Beplain's Multi Vitamin Ampoule is a brightening ampoule that can be used both day and night to help fade dark spots. It is packed full of a cocktail of brightening ingredients: sea buckthorn, ascorbic acid, tranexamic acid and Arbutin. During the day, it is advised to apply sunscreen at the end of your routine. Due to the components in this ampoule, it is also advised that this ampoule is not to be used with retinol or BHA in your skincare regimen.

Full Ingredient List: Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Water (78%), Niacinamide (5%), Butylene Glycol, Methylpropanediol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Betaine, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Oil (100ppm), Ascorbic Acid (0.1ppm), Tocopherol (0.1ppm), 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid (1ppm), Tranexamic Acid, Arbutin, Bisabolol, Panthenol (100ppm), Adenosine, Avocado Oil, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate, Polyglyceryl-10 Oleate, Carbomer, Tromethamine, Xanthan Gum, Fructooligosaccharides, Beta-Glucan, Ethylhexylglycerin, Piper Methysticum Leaf/Root/Stem Extract, Purified Water, Kelp Extract, Pullulan, Eclipta Prostrata Extract.
Glowing Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  

I was looking for a new niacinamide serum and fell in love with the ingredient list of the vitamin brightening ampoule. It really matched my expectations someone who's dealing with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. In two weeks it's really showing some effects. Plus, I loved the hand written note that came with my delivery it felt super personal, really nice touch! – Melissa C.


Jumiso All Day Vitamin Brightening & Balancing Facial Serum (£21.00)


Jumiso's All Day Vitamin Brightening & Balancing Facial Serum is the brand's bestseller after constant revisions to create the best in the market. It is enriched with 86.14% Vitamin Tree extract (also known as Sea Buckthorn), which is more stable than other serums that use Vitamin C, so you do not need to worry about it oxidising as you work your way through the bottle. This vegan serum is effective to the very last drop.

This brightening serum also contains Niacinamide and Licorice to boost the brightening properties of the serum. It also has soothing and moisturising ingredients to keep skin healthy and balanced whilst gently brightening your overall complexion.

You can also try the mini version of the Jumiso All Day Vitamin Brightening & Balancing Facial Serum in the Jumiso Let's Go Kit. This gift set includes Cleanser, Toner, Serum and Moisturiser.

Full Ingredient List: Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Extract, Methylpropanediol, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Dipropylene Glycol, Sodium Hyaluronate, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Centella Asiatica Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalesis Root Extract, Camellia Sinesis Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Panthenol, Betaine, Ascorbic Acid, Hydroxyacetophenone, Pentylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Carbomer, Arginine, Disodium EDTA, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil, Cymbopogon Martini Oil, Cananga Odorata Flower Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Peel Oil, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil.

Glowing Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Brightened skin and evened skin tone within 2 weeks – Chelsea M.


Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Serum (£21.00)


Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Serum is a bestseller that has sold over two million+ bottles globally thus far. It is a fan-favourite for tackling dull skin in Korean beauty. This hypoallergenic is used overnight to work its magic to more radiant and glowy skin. It is Vegan and Cruelty-free, supercharged with 5% Stabilized Pure Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) to brighten skin complexion. Over time, this serum can turn yellow to orange due to the process of oxidation. To slow down the oxidation process, it is advised that the serum be stored in a dry and cool place with minimal exposure to sunlight.

Full Ingredient List: Water, Propylene Glycol, Ascorbic Acid, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Centella Asiatica Extract, Citrus Junos Fruit Extract, Illicium Verum(Anise) Fruit Extract, Citrus Paradisi(Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Nelumbium Speciosum Flower Extract, Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Polysorbate 60, Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Extract, Chaenomeles Sinensis Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Disodium EDTA, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Camellia Sinensis Callus Culture Extract, Larix Europaea Wood Extract, Chrysanthellum Indicum Extract, Rheum Palmatum Root Extract, Asarum Sieboldi Root Extract, Quercus Mongolia Leaf Extract, Persicaria Hydropiper Extract, Corydalis Turtschaninovii Root Extract, Coptis Chinensis Root Extract, Magnolia Obovata Bark Extract, Lysine HCL, Proline, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Acetyl Methionine, Theanine, Lecithin, Acetyl Glutamine, SH-Olgopeptide-1, SH-Olgopeptide-2, SH-Polypeptide-1, SH-Polypeptide-9, SH-Polypeptide-11, Bacillus/Soybean/Folic Acid Ferment Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Caprylyl Glycol, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Limonene.
Glowing Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I've been using this for just over two months now, but the difference within the first couple of weeks of incorporating this into my routine was amazing. I didn't expect it to work as quickly as it did, but I love it and will be repurchasing! - Donna


Axis-Y Dark Spot Correcting Glow Serum (£19.00)


The tortoise of brightening serums in Korean beauty, the AXIS-Y Dark Spot Correcting Glow Serum is a Skin Library bestseller. It contains Niacinamide yet is gentle on the skin to brighten dark spots slowly but surely. Niacinamide is a popular ingredient that has been revered for its multifunctional properties. Most commonly used for its brightening properties, Niacinamide has been shown to effectively improve signs of hyperpigmentation.

A great gift or treat to yourself could be the sets from AXIS-Y: AXIS-Y The Mini Glow Sets and My Axis-Y Self-Care Kit. Both contain the mini AXIS-Y Dark Spot Correcting Glow serum to indulge in skincare from trending skincare brand AXIS-Y.

Full Ingredient List: Water, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Propanediol, Erythritol, Butylene Glycol, Squalane, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Extract, Malpighia Emarginata (Acerola) Fruit Extract, Polyglyceryl-10 Laurate, Chlorphenesin, Arginine, Ethylhexylglycerin, Carbomer, Glutathione, 1,2-Hexanediol, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Disodium EDTA, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Allantoin, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil.
Glowing Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I love this serum daily. It's been over a year now, this is a repeat product for me and I think it'll always be. Apart from the skin benefits, I love how glowy it makes my skin look when I have no makeup on! Highly recommend. – Lamide S.


ABIB Yuja Essence Vitalizing Pump (£22.50)


ABIB's Yuja Essence Vitalizing Pump is a revitalising skincare product containing Niacinamide and Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C). This citrus-scented essence is supercharged with Yuja extract, a citrus ingredient rich in Vitamin C to brighten skin. Recharge and revitalise with this essence to improve the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin tone.

Full Ingredient List: Citrus Junos Peel Extract, Butylene Glycol, Dipropylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Water, Glycereth-26, Niacinamide, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugarcane) Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Lactobacillus Ferment Lysate, Panthenol, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Choleth-24, Glycerin, Diphenyl Dimethicone, Tromethamine, Triethylhexanoin, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Citrus Junos Peel Oil, Pentylene Glycol, Tocopherol, Ascorbic Acid, Disodium EDTA, Limonene.
Glowing Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

First of all this product is quite rare, and not a lot of companies have them in stock. This product is very soothing and calms down my face after washing. It helps my other products glides on soothing onto my face. I am very happy with this product and customer service. I shall be ordering from this company. - Oluwaloseyi O.


Abib Luminous Serum Melting Vita (£42.00)


ABIB's Luminous Serum Melting Vita is a serum with a watery-oil texture to hydrate, brighten and combat fine lines and wrinkles. It is brightening without Niacinamide for those looking for a brightening solution yet have an intolerance to Niacinamide. It is powered by Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Extract to bring out the inner glow, creating a radiant complexion. It also contains Q10 (Ubiquinone), a natural antioxidant to combat wrinkles and fine lines. The vitamin capsules will instantly melt into your skin when gently massaged into your skin to recharge skin. Remember to shake the bottle before use to blend the capsules.

Full Ingredient List: Water, Glycerin, Propanediol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Glycereth-26, Polyglycerin-3, Pentylene Glycol, Sodium PCA, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugarcane) Extract, Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Extract, Mentha Viridis(Spearmint) Extract, Origanum Vulgare Leaf Extract, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols, Melissa Officinalis Extract, Leontopodium Alpinum Flower/Leaf Extract, Propolis Extract, Allium Sativum (Garlic) Bulb Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Bertholletia Excelsa Seed Extract, Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Extract, Camellia Sinensis Seed Extract, Salmon Egg Extract, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Spinacia Oleracea (Spinach) Leaf Extract, Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract, Wine Extract, Methylpropanediol, Mannitol, Cellulose, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Tromethamine, Caprylyl Glycol, Tocopherol (125 ppm), Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Ubiquinone, Carnosine, Butylene Glycol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Dipropylene Glycol, Hydroxydecyl Ubiquinone, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Iron Oxides (CI 77492).

Somebymi AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Serum (£20.00)


SOMEBYMI's AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Serum is an acne-fighting serum that fortifies the skin barrier. It contains Glycolic Acid, commonly used in chemical peels, which gently buffs away dead skin cells to reveal a brighter complexion. This serum also has skin brightening ingredients, Licorice and Niacinamide, to tackle post-inflammation hyperpigmentation. Take a chance on the Somebymi AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Serum to combat dull, oily and acne-prone skin.

Want a complete overhaul for acne-prone oily skin? Get the SOME BY MI Miracle Kit, which is a gift set including the toner, serum and moisturiser from SOME BY MI's AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Line,

Full Ingredient List: Water, Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola) Extract, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Propanediol, Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Niacinamide, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Water, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis (Baikal Skullcap) Root Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum (Japanese Knotweed) Root Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Sodium Lactate, Sodium PCA, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Malic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Pyruvic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Gaultheria Procumbens (Wintergreen) Leaf Extract, Lactobionic Acid, Pentylene Glycol, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Fruit Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Extract, Ocimum Basilicum (Basil) Leaf Extract, Syringa Vulgaris (Lilac) Extract, Houttuynia Cordata (Tsi) Extract, Angelica Keiskei Extract, Althaea Officinalis (Marshmallow) Root Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract, Madecassoside, Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Seed Oil, Rosa Canina (Dog Rose) Fruit Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, Sodium Chloride, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Melia Azadirachta (Neem) Leaf Extract, Melia Azadirachta (Neem) Flower Extract, Xanthan Gum, Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium) Flower Oil, Boswellia Carterii (Frankincense) Oil, Melia Azadirachta Bark Extract, Pearl Powder, Amyris Balsamifera (West Indian Rosewood) Bark Oil, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Ocimum Sanctum Leaf Extract, Ocimum Basilicum (Basil) Flower/Leaf Extract, Disodium EDTA, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin.
Glowing Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I found this serum really brightened my skin!! Definitely buying again. - Ellis


Takeaway: Although the weather is gloomy, it does not mean your skin needs to remain dull. Multiple factors can contribute to dull skin, but all is not lost. Brightening serums can tackle dull skin to brighten up skin to achieve a radiant glow. Remember to finish your morning routine with sunscreen and reapply sunscreen throughout the day; your skin will thank you. Do you have any special tips for tackling uneven skin tone? Tell us in the comments below.

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